UN urges calm in Ivory Coast over poll run-off results

Ivorian soldier on guard at the electoral commission in Abidjan, 1 December 2010
Image caption Both the army and UN peacekeepers have been patrolling Abidjan's streets since Sunday

The UN mission in Ivory Coast has urged election rivals to keep their promises and not resort to violence as tensions rise over the run-off outcome.

The army sealed the borders after the electoral commission head said incumbent Laurent Gbagbo was beaten by the opposition's Alassane Ouattara.

The Constitutional Council has declared the announcement invalid and has a week to publish full results.

The poll is intended to reunify the nation after a civil war in 2002.

Former New Forces rebels still control the north of the world's largest cocoa producer.

Supporters of President Gbagbo say there was fraud during Sunday's vote in the north, where Mr Ouattara is popular.

Dramatic scenes

UN spokesman Hamadoun Toure told the BBC the authorities must be allowed time to sort out the confusion.

"Our job is to remind them of their promises and commitments and especially not to use violence," he said.

The UN had received reports of violence in parts of the west and north on election day, but that overall the voting seemed to be peaceful, Mr Toure said.

"They have to abide by electoral law, they have to keep their promise during the campaigning that they won't use violence to settle disputes and they also said they'd abide by the results."

There were dramatic scenes on Thursday, when the head of the electoral commission announced the results after failing to get consensus from all members of the body.

Earlier in the week, the president's representative at the electoral commission publicly tore up the first batch of results amid calls for votes from the north to be annulled.

But speaking under armed guard at a hotel, rather than from the commission's headquarters, Youssouf Bakayoko said Mr Ouattara had won 54% of the vote, compared with 46% for Mr Gbagbo.

Not long afterwards, the head of the Constitutional Council went on national television and said that, as the announcement had come after Wednesday's legal deadline, the results were "null and void".

"The Constitutional Council - responsible for sorting out disputes in presidential elections - finds itself in charge, to find a solution to the disagreements, and proclaim the definitive presidential election results," said Paul Yao N'Dre, who is a close ally of Mr Gbagbo.

The BBC's John James, in the main city of Abidjan, says an election result cannot become legally binding until the Constitutional Council approves it.

Foreign news suspended

Most people in Abidjan have again stayed at home on Friday as the uncertainty continues, our correspondent says.

On Thursday evening on the streets of the Abidjan, supporters of Mr Ouattara expressed their frustration because of the lack of information about the results over the past few days, he says.

Shortly after the military announced the closure of the country's border on Thursday night, it said all foreign news channels would be immediately suspended.

Diplomatic pressure is mounting for both sides to solve their difficulties peacefully.

UN Security Council members "reiterated their readiness to take the appropriate measures against those who obstruct the electoral process", the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said after a closed-door meeting.

The US said that "no party should be allowed to obstruct further the electoral process", while French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged the Constitutional Council to "respect the will clearly expressed by the Ivorian people".

His foreign minister said earlier this week that French forces would be able to intervene in the former colony if French nationals or interests were affected by unrest.

The International Criminal Court said it would be monitoring acts of violence.

Both the army and UN peacekeepers have been patrolling Abidjan's streets since Sunday to prevent an outbreak of violence.

At least four people were killed in election-related clashes in Abidjan this week.

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